Mobile coverage expansion on the London Underground is accelerating, with five stations confirmed to be operational within the next six months.
At the moment all mobile network coverage is available in the tunnels on the Jubilee line between Westminster and Canning Town and TfL has confirmed that Bank, Oxford Circus, Tottenham Court Road, Euston and Camden Town will be the first stations to offer coverage part of the grid expansion.
The delivery of mobile coverage on the London Underground has been signed via a concession agreement, so the cost of installing BAI Communications will be funded at no cost to TfL, while TfL will also generate revenue from the contract over its 20-year term. Since signing the contract, BAI has upgraded the Jubilee line’s test network to a permanent one, before extending phone coverage to the rest of the London Underground.
Once those first five stations are operational, TfL says more sections of the Tube network will be operational by the summer of 2023 – including stations in the City and West End on the Central Line. TfL and BAI continue to make progress in providing mobile coverage over the recently opened central section of the Elizabeth Line between Paddington and Abbey Wood.
Although all mobile networks currently support coverage on the Jubilee line, this is a legacy of the trial agreement and only Three and EE had previously signed agreements to extend their coverage to the rest of the London Underground. TfL has now confirmed that both Vodafone and O2 have also committed to supporting extended coverage on the rest of the tube.
It has also been announced that the Wi-Fi network in the stations, originally installed by Virgin Media, will be transferred to BAI to operate on behalf of TfL from April next year.
Shashi Verma, Chief Technology Officer at TfL, said: “I am pleased that all four major mobile operators are ready to provide uninterrupted 4G high-speed coverage on the metro. We are working closely with BAI Communications to have the next stations ready by the end of the year so our customers can benefit from them as soon as possible.”
By the end of 2024, all stations and tunnels in the entire subway network should have mobile phone reception.
BAI’s neutral host cellular network will also host the new Emergency Services Network (ESN), giving first responders instant access to life-saving data, images and information in live situations and first-line emergencies.
As part of the broader Connected London programme, BAI plans to invest over £1bn in building a backbone of mobile and digital connectivity for London. A full-fiber network will also be delivered, connecting buildings and roadside equipment, such as traffic lights and lampposts, which house small mobile cell sites to improve 4G and 5G phone coverage.